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Online accounts can weigh heavily into estate planning process

A contributor to a recent financial planning article asks readers to consider what their state of mind would be in the event that every personal Internet file they had created suddenly disappeared.

In other words, what emotional state would result from the sudden realization that an entire online existence had been deleted?

It’s easy to extrapolate from that hypothetical after answering that, for most readers, a considerable amount of angst if not outright panic would ensue.

In extrapolating, it might logically be asked how bungled up and unsatisfying things would be for the heirs of a suddenly departed loved one who had made no preparation regarding his or her online assets.

What if dad or mom (or whoever) had an extensive online presence, replete with dozens of important financial accounts, musical libraries, family historical documents and other files, and then never catalogued it or made provisions for family members to access accounts following the creator’s death?

Such an adverse outcome clearly conveys the pitfalls of estate planning for some people in the digital era, where important “property” is just as apt to be found online as it is elsewhere.

The above-cited contributor, Thomas Henske, has a recommendation that many people might want to pay close attention to in this modern age. Henske’s advice is this: Don’t delay in getting started on identifying and adequately describing that property -- where it is online, what passwords will access it, what it contains, what account numbers apply and so forth.

And then do what is necessary to enable that it can be later accessed by the proper party or parties.

“Work with your estate planning attorneys,” Henske advises.

A proven estate planning attorney can help explain why Henske is on the mark with that recommendation, given the explosion of online accounts and important Internet-accessed personal data that features these days.

A carefully tailored and sound estate plan will fully take into account all important accounts and files, wherever located.

Source: CNBC, “Protect online assets with a digital estate plan,” Thomas Henske, May 19, 2014

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